The Mancunion’s guide to the coming year in the industry
With 2018 upon us, and this year shaping up to be an exciting year for gaming, we asked each of our staff writers for their take on the coming year.
Chris — what to expect from console games:
What we know: Currently, the big-budget AAA games likely to be contending for biggest game of the year are Red Dead Redemption 2 and 2018’s Call of Duty title. We know absolutely nothing about the latter, but having seen the franchise win back fans and make WWII the highest-selling game of 2017, it seems like a safe bet that they could potentially replicate that feat this year.
As for Red Dead Redemption 2, Rockstar proved with 2013’s GTA V that it has perfected its open-world model. All that remains, then, is to see whether Rockstar have become emboldened enough by their $1 billion dollars of GTA V microtransaction earnings to allow them to dampen the Red Dead Redemption 2 experience.
What we predict: Expect battle-royale games Fortnite and PUBG to continue to dominate discussion, particularly because the latter has every possibility of breaking its temporary Xbox One exclusivity this year and making its way over to PS4 and Nintendo Switch.
Speaking of domination, PS4’s exclusive line-up this year is looking very strong, with titles such as God of War and Spider-Man likely overshadowing Xbox One’s Sea of Thieves and Crackdown 3. Finally, I would be surprised if a Borderlands 3 announcement didn’t come very soon — I can feel it in my bones.
What we want: It’s about time we heard something about Diablo 4. There have been a few rumours over the last couple of years about Blizzard hiring for the project, and a few leaks about announcements that never materialised.
As has been the case for seven years, I want Elder Scrolls VI. Admittedly, even the leaks and rumours suggest a release of around 2022, meaning it’s possible that we could expect to first see a Fallout game but I’m so desperate that at this point I’d settle for a whisper from a guy who knows a guy who says it might at least be in development.
Jeremy — what to expect from console publishers:
What We Know: With the dust settling on a turgid 2017 for consoles, things are starting to return to normal. EA’s stock value is recovering at a remarkable rate, and social media backlash is starting to even out. Indeed, every major publicly-traded European publisher has posted strong numbers in the market. No matter how unpopular some of the decision for console games have proved this year, it is clear sales are still high.
What We Predict: For Ubisoft to emerge as the new consumer-friendly company of console gaming. It’s a sad time we live in that pro-consumerism is now a niche that is very much up for grabs, but the signs are there that Ubisoft are primed to fill that gap. 2017 saw longer development cycles, a renewed determination for bug-free launches, retrospective fixes for games and an overall higher quality of product following their rebrand.
The success of Origins will have sent a clear signal to Ubisoft that doing all these things can be a viable business model. Much of this will depend on the popularity and commercial performance of Far Cry 5, but I see 2018 being the year of Ubisoft, from a popularity point of view if not a financial one.
What we want: It would be good to see disney rip the Star Wars license from EA. The metanarrative of the Star Wars franchise is one where the EAmpire and Emperor Andrew Wilson are winning. It’s time for the rebellion. Also, Skate 4.
Danny — what to expect from conferences:
What we know: Dates first and foremost. We’re not going to list them for you, but the big dogs — E3, Gamescom, GDC and so on — have all set their dates and put tickets on sale, so if you’re planning on going, get a move on.
Microsoft will be making waves this year. Their head of Gaming, Phil Spencer, has recently been quoted as saying that there “will be some positive changes” in how they conduct their presentations this year. Does this mean a new IP? Fable 4? Halo 6? That we don’t know, but expect something big.
What we predict: Lots of VR. Virtual Reality has come a long way since the gimmicky feel of the Oculus Rift, and whilst it is by no means perfect, we expect even bigger strides to have been made for this year in gaming. Whether its seeing how the technology has been improved and fine-tuned at the more in-industry events such as GDC (Game Developers Conference) or Develop: Brighton, or simply seeing what new VR games are on offer when E3 rolls around.
Speaking of, if we can guess at what game will dominate this year’s conventions and take home all the silverware, we’re putting money on Red Dead Redemption 2. Do we really need to explain why?
What we want: Keeping gimmicks in mind: it is perhaps our one wish that this year’s conventions – namely E3 – take a step away from the overly-flashy, yet often poorly executed presentations of the last few years. After last year’s famous missed high-five and that YouTube presenter’s meltdown when introducing Need for Speed, we’re not sure we can talk anymore cringe-worthy moments and the barrage of memes that follow. No more gratuitous celebrity appearances either: we don’t need Snoop Dogg and Terry Crews to demo a game for us, we beg you.
P.S. We were just kidding about the memes, we’ll take them all please…
David — what to expect from PC gaming:
What we know: 2018 is set to be a great year for PC gaming. We have shooters like Anthem, Far Cry 5 and Metro Exodus on the way, as well as some RPGs like Pillars of Eternity: Deadfire and Mount and Blade 2: Bannerlord. Last week, FromSoftware announced the Dark Souls remaster PC gamers have been waiting for, finally allowing 4k 60FPS gameplay without having to use third-party mods or fixes.
Destiny 2 is in trouble after the latest DLC, Curse of Osiris, failed to introduce worthwhile endgame content, and alongside microtransactions in the Eververse store, has resulted in players abandoning the title in droves, some even returning to The Division.
What we predict: The continued success of battle royale games: Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds is as big as ever, and recently free-to-play Fortnite clocked 2 million concurrent players. It seems more battle royale clones are inevitable.
Akin to GTA V, sadly I predict the highly-anticipated Red Dead Redemption 2 will be delayed a year after console release. If it means a great, stable port, it’ll be worth the wait.
With some luck, developers will finally get the message about microtransactions – we don’t want them! EA’s microtransaction U-turn in Star Wars Battlefront 2 hopefully signals a chance of tact from AAA developers.
What we want: I crave some good RPGs in 2018, with some particular titles in mind. Any news regarding Cyberpunk 2077 from CD Projekt Red would be good, given their exemplary record from The Witcher series. It’s rumoured gameplay will be shown at E3 this year.
I’d also like to see a new Fallout title announced, but made by Obsidian Entertainment, not Bethesda. Whether it’s Fallout: New Vegas 2, or a game set elsewhere, Obsidian know exactly how to nail the Fallout vibe.
Sarah — what to expect from mobile gaming:
What we know: We know mobile gaming is big, and profitable. According to a report by gamesindustry.biz, mobile games now occupy 43 per cent of the total market value of games — a staggering 14 per cent higher than console. This may be due in part to the popularisation of AR (Augmented Reality) Games, which has been helped by the release of IOS 11, which gives developers a much easier platform for developing such games.
The release of Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is being highly anticipated as the next best thing since Pokemon Go, and hopefully it will be better considering the game is made by the same developers, Niantic Labs, who will have learnt from their successes and mistakes.
What we predict: Given the huge commercial success of mobile games in 2017, we might expect to see a concurrent increase in quality. With the platform offering sustainable revenue through the use of a free-to-play, microtransaction-based model, critical acclaim can take mobile gaming to the next level. Developers will be aware of this, and the potential of a game which finds the happy medium between profitability, playability and popularity is immeasurable.
What we want: When I revisit the app store every now and then, I am greatly disappointed by the lack of indie games released in 2017, as they’re usually the ones I enjoy most. I want a game that lives up to the standards of Limbo or Thomas Was Alone to make some sort of appearance. Anything!
Chris — what to expect from the Nintendo Switch:
What we know: The Nintendo Switch far exceeded all predictions last year, and was recently named America’s fastest selling home games console. Many attribute the Switch’s success to the regular releases of high quality exclusive games like Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2 and Breath of the Wild, and with fan favourites Yoshi, Kirby and Donkey Kong making their way on to the console in 2018, I wouldn’t expect Nintendo’s success to slow down any time soon.
What we predict: GameFreak have confirmed there’s a Pokémon game in development exclusively for the Switch, but stated in late 2017 that it may not released for a year. Expect a potential release date to come in 2018, and expect it to be big news when it does; there has never been a core RPG Pokémon title on a home console, so we’re going to see the franchise changed drastically for better or worse.
What we want: Nintendo understood early on that one of the biggest draws of their system is that older popular games can be ported on to the switch and played on-the-go with minimal loss of graphical fidelity. LA Noire, DOOM and Skyrim all went down a treat with players, and I’d like to see some more old favourites like Fallout 3 added to this growing library.
Felix — what to expect from e-sports:
What we know: E-sports is increasingly being reported on by mainstream media, and is moving from a niche sector of the games industry to one its main attractions. From Football matches with players having a game of FIFA at half time (I think I remember Eric Dier and Daniel Sturridge) to full-scale events, televised competitive gaming is here to stay.
What we predict: For e-sports to emerge as the main obstacle for publishers introducing gameplay changing microtransactions, a la Star Wars: Battlefront II. Publishers may have to choose how to monetize their games outside of the the initial sell, and e-sports and purchasable gameplay advantages are mutually exclusive. I wouldn’t be surprised to see publishers attempt both, but I think it’ll ultimately have to be one or the other.
What we want: Across E-sports, management of events has been a recurring problem. Production companies have little accountability and many events feel rushed or unprofessional. Growing e-sports and bringing it into the mainstream needs a more streamlined and accessible approach to tournaments as a whole. E-sports is on the brink of becoming something huge, and the industry need to do its best to facilitate that.